General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc (GA‑ASI) has started construction of a hangar to house and test its MQ-9B SkyGuardian remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).
The development was marked by a groundbreaking event for the 150,000ft² facility in El Mirage, California, US.
Known as ‘El Mirage Hangar 80’, the new hangar will have 125 employees, including 30-45 new hires.
The hangar will be equipped with ground support equipment, as well as shipping and receiving areas.
GA-ASI president David Alexander said: “Any time we break ground on a new facility is an exciting day for our company. The new MQ-9B represents the latest in RPA innovation, and with increasing interest in this aircraft throughout the world, it’s time to get this hangar constructed.”
The MQ-9B SkyGuardian leverages the mature system architecture of the legacy MQ-9A operated by the US Air Force. The maritime variant is known as SeaGuardian.
MQ-9B is an unmanned aircraft that is designed to fly in non-segregated airspace and meet Nato STANAG 4671 airworthiness standard.
GA-ASI aims to first obtain Nato certification for the MQ-9B followed by domestic US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) airworthiness certification standards.
SkyGuardian is equipped with SATCOM auto take-off and landing capability (ATLC) and the GA-ASI Lynx multi-mode radar.
According to the company, the RPA can be configured to support maritime operations. SkyGuardian has the ability to support maritime radars facilitating long-range surveillance, coastal surveillance, small target detection, and search and rescue operations.
The SkyGuardian RPA has been selected by the British Royal Air Force (RAF) as part of its Protector RG Mk1 programme. GA-ASI expects to deliver the first aircraft to the RAF in the early 2020s.
In November, Belgium announced that it will acquire the aircraft for its defence needs.
In the same month, the company’s MQ-9 Reaper was selected for the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Project Air 7003.